The world's first-ever 'academic paper which is not a paper' is due to be presented by a Lancaster University research team at the premier international conference on human-computer interaction.
Dr Joseph Lindley, a researcher at Lancaster University's ImaginationLancaster design-led research laboratory, Dr Miriam Sturdee, from the University's School of Computing and Communications, Senior Research Associate Dr David Green and Research Associate Hayley Alter have been invited to take part in the 2021 ACM CHI Virtual Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in May.
Using the innovative 'Gather Town' online video-calling and conferencing platform, they have experimented in setting up a conference paper as an interactive but virtual space.
The unique part of this type of video-calling is the ability for multiple people to hold separate conversations in parallel, and to walk in and out of those conversations just as easily as they would in a real room.
"So, with this, you can actually walk 'in' to the paper. Each 'room' is a page or section within the paper where you can read the text, but also talk to other conference delegates about it," explains Dr Lindley, a lecturer in design research.
Quirky egg-themed graphics (eggs are used as they are a symbol of new life) give the 'page-spaces' character as different destinations, while the menu page is inspired by Piet Mondrian's map-like painting, 'Broadway Boogie Woogie'.
"The beauty with this approach is that you don't have to read from start to finish, you can experience it in any order you like," Dr Lindley explains.
Instead of hearing a formal presentation, participants will be asked to don their choice of avatar before being invited into the two-dimensional spaces to meet, chat and 'explore' the egg.
"This is the world's first paper that is not an actual paper," says Dr Lindley. "It's a video conferencing platform that hosts 20 interconnected 'rooms' with a 'poster' in each one. People can mill about and discuss each poster and, by leaving additional comments they can effectively help to keep 'writing' the paper as they go.
"This prototype is about collapsing barriers between video conferencing, research conferences, and publication traditions. It's about exploring creative ways of using technology and bringing them together."
"It's looking at how the research landscape will evolve. The pandemic is making people look at that again."
"We are now in a state of comprehensive flux as 'new normals' emerge, begin to solidify, and may evolve into an--as yet undetermined--futures.
"This 'not paper' is a facet and exploration of that flux as it relates to publication and conference culture, video conferencing systems, and how we both conduct, and share, research."
Step inside the paper if you dare...